Priests & pedophilia

The Archdiocese of Boston lies under a siege of criticism over the way cases of molestation of minors by priests have been handled. Boston Catholics have been stunned by stories in the Boston Globe that priests with records of pedophilia continued to be placed in parishes as recently as the 1990s. Their outrage is understandable. Jesus warned his disciples, "It would be better for you if a millstone where hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble" (Luke 17: 2). Millstones may be in short supply by the time the full extent of this scandal is known.

Harsh criticism, especially of Cardinal Bernard Law and his auxiliaries, over what appears to be indifference to the well-being of children is understandable. But anger alone is not enough, and can even obscure our understanding of the facts and an accurate assessment of the situation.

At the center of the controversy in Boston stands John Geoghan, a convicted pedophile and now defrocked diocesan priest who has been accused of molesting more than a hundred victims over a forty-year period. Despite knowing of Geoghan’s record of pedophilia, Law transferred him in 1984 to yet another parish where he continued to prey on young boys. That decision has been widely publicized by the Globe, which obtained documents from civil suits brought against Geoghan. Law has acknowledged his error in...

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